Twelve dollars for a pizza. The American Dream rides high in Home Alone, a feature that sits on the cusp of the 1990s. What a strange decade to capitalise on. Despite this turn of the century, the work of Christopher Columbus is infatuated with the generations before it and the Christmas spirit they herald as tradition. Why tradition for the McCallister family is jetting off to the other side of the world and abandoning the black sheep of the family in their oversized home is beyond conception, but it happens often enough to warrant a sequel. The first is where the real classic magic happens for Home Alone, everything afterwards is shaky filler following the exact same process as before. Or, worse, deviating from the notes that make this Christmas classic just that.
Undoubtedly, somewhere deep within the throes of youth, every child hoped they’d live a few days like Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin). Eating ice cream, shooting home invaders and doing their own shopping. What happens is expectedly convoluted. No child knows how or where to buy the right groceries. The plot is riddled with holes for the sake of comedy, yet at the same time is intricate enough to string together the reasons for Kevin’s abandonment and psychological warfare between him and the Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Columbus’ work relies more on the script than first thought. The happenstance moments of Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Stern) realising Kevin is, indeed, home alone is based more on the panicked parents trying to reach home and the sleuth-like investigations of two idiot robbers than anything else.
What follows is a festive level of mania, consumed wholly by the good tidings of the season, the traditions at the heart of it and the damage a bauble on the floor can do. It is the chaotic torture of the final third that will be so memorable to those looking for frank, slapstick comedy. The family values and broken home that come before it are all but forgotten as Pesci has his head blowtorched and Stern survives a killing blow from an iron dropped from a clothes chute. That is the beauty of Home Alone, though. It takes these absolute murder charges and devolves them into a realm beyond comical slapstick. Either Harry and Marv are superhumans, or Columbus has realised the only way to sell this violence is to make it look harmless. Both works rather well.
Bounding into the modern culture as a feature on an equivalent, psychologically damaging scale to that of American Psycho or as dangerous and violent as Die Hard, the work provided by this cast make Home Alone a real treat for the family. It has the benefit of featuring some great stars who are more than capable of usurping their self-respect for the sake of a gag here or a loose bit of violence there. It takes a truly great actor to sell being hit in the head with a paint can. A score from John Williams ties it all together with sincere perfection, and from then, it is hard to see where Home Alone can fail. It’s a tightly-wound Christmas classic, one that would benefit from reigning in the raging sentimentality.